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Below StairsBelow Stairs the Musical

Book Music & lyrics by Trevor Pilling and Alan Lewis.

Contact for further information bestmusical@btinternet.com

More information can be found at www.belowstairsshow.com

Synopsis

This is a believable show about life below stairs in a large London home in 1914. The story revolves around the life of Lucy Ambleside, a ladies maid. She is a bright, intelligent young woman with a will to succeed and a gift for mimicry. Lucy has ideas above her station and uses her talents to appear at a society ball dressed as an American heiress where she meets the Hon Edward Waterflower, an apparent gentleman but not all he seems.

Having always wanted to appear on the Music Hall, she auditions on her day off and gets an occasional spot with a local impresario. Here, thanks to her personality and mimicry skills, Lucy becomes Arlette, the lady from Paris. However, she is caught by butler Mr Town creeping in late from the theatre and dismissed without references.With nowhere to go, she returns to the theatre and becomes a full-time performer.

Local bobby PC Tom Snodgrasse, who is in love with Lucy, tries to find her after she is sacked but fails and enlists in the army. On his last night, he goes to the Music Hall and recognises her on stage as Arlette. They spend his last night together before he goes off to war, where he is posted missing in action.

Next, Lucy finds herself pregnant. For the dénouement, why not send for the script ....

Story:

The musical opens at 4 a.m. on a cold winter morning. One by one the below-stairs staff wake up and start to sing Below stairs, sleepily at first but then with spirit when Mr Town, the butler, arrives. Ladies maid Lucy is clearly not keen on being ordered about and to herself sings Nobody is better than me.

Now we’re in the park, where some suffragettes put over their views with the rousing Votes for women. The same day, PC Tom Snodgrasse serenades an apparently resistant Lucy with My girl. As second-in-command to Mr Town, cook Doris Lovegrove displays her self-assurance with I am a very fine cook, a song shared by the chorus. Next, at a dance, we hear a waltz in the background.

Back below stairs, butler Mr Town explains his view of the social set-up by singing Order in our lives, aided by the chorus. Masquerading as an American lady of means, Lucy has an assignation with an equally misleading character, Edward, and they sing the duet Would you like to take a little walk with me. As Edward leaves, Lucy’s other suitor Tom arrives and tells in his youth he had a narrow escape when he met the girl’s mother for High tea. Meanwhile, still determined to rise above her station, Lucy applies for a job as a chanteuse at the music hall, auditioning with My name is Arlette.

Act 2 starts with a rousing chorus song at the seaside – High days and holidays. And very soon we hear about the unpredictability of love with One brief moment.

Back to the park scene, Lucy and Edward fall out when he refuses to help her after she was dismissed from service. But the tone lightens when Tom, Bert and Fred give vent to their ideas about women’s logic with Ridiculogical. Having landed a job at the music hall, Lucy begins her career with the cheeky ditty A parlour maid, perhaps drawing on her real-life experiences.

The battle field at Ypres is the next setting for a song, with Tom on sentry duty reflecting on his feelings for Lucy with the moving When I’m alone at night.

Back in Blighty, Lucy goes back to the house to recruit Emily as her maid and naturally crosses swords with the opinionated Mr Town: a defiant duet is the result. The show ends with Lucy singing When our boys come marching home before the rousing Finale.

Casting

Below Stairs requires a minimum cast of 12. Excluding minor roles, there are named parts for six females (one being early teens), and eight males (one also early teens). The première had a cast of two dozen, a comfortable number, and all subsequent productions have had about the same.

The most demanding role is that of ladies maid Lucy. Apart from excellent acting and singing ability, she must be capable of speaking with convincing ‘London’, American, posh and French accents. And in her alter ego as the French entertainer Arlette on the music hall stage, she also is required to sing with a French accent.

In the first production, the chorus had 12 ladies, three of whom also had named cameo parts. There were six men, all playing small roles as well.

The chorus is easily augmented by involving more kitchenmaids, suffragettes, bathers, etc. This gives the show a useful versatility, in that, for example, it is easily adapted for schools, which often prefer to have as large a cast as possible.

Musically, there is a good mixture of styles and tempi. The two romantic ballads are a Tom/Lucy duet My girl and Tom’s solo When I’m alone at night. There are seven chorus numbers including Below stairs, Votes for women, I am a very fine cook, High days and holidays, Ridiculogical, The stage is no place for a decent girl, and the rousing final march When our boys come marching home. Mr Town, the butler, has an Elgarian solo Order in our lives and social climber Edward has the charming Would you like to take a little walk with me.

Musical Numbers

  1. Opening Chorus - Below Stairs - Servants
  2. Solo - Nobody Is Better Than Me - Lucy
  3. Chorus of Suffragettes - Votes For Women
  4. Solo - My Girl - PC Snodgrass
  5. Solo - I'm A Very Fine Cook - Doris Lovegrove & Chorus
  6. At the Dance - Waltz
  7. Solo - Order In Our Lives - Mr Town
  8. Duet: - Would You Take A Little Walk With Me? - Lucy & Edward
  9. Solo - High Tea - Tom
  10. Audition Solo - My Name Is Arlette - Lucy
  11. Chorus - High Days and Holidays
  12. Trio - Ridiculogical - Tom, Bert and Fred
  13. Solo - A Parlour Maid - Lucy
  14. Solo Stage Is No Place ||For a Decent Girl
  15. Solo - When I'm Alone At Night - Tom
  16. Duet - Lucy and Mr Town
  17. Solo - When Our Boys Come Marching Home - Lucy
  18. Finale

Instrumentation

Below Stairs is available in two forms: a piano score or a three-part arrangement by Bryan Williams for piano, electronic keyboard (variously brass, string, woodwind, etc. as appropriate to the number) and double bass.